Industry reacts to BBC local radio changes


Reaction to BBC Director General Tony Hall’s speech on Wednesday has been mixed across the industry.

Former radio executives David Lloyd and John Myers have blogged about the speech, suggesting the proposals aren’t necessarily in the best interest of the local radio stations.

Lord Hall said the networked evening show will end, with local stations getting the 7pm to 10pm weekday slot back to control locally, and that the planned £10m worth of cuts will not be happening.

But the line which gained the most reaction was the plan to remove the focus of the network to target the over 50s. “Local Radio should be for everybody” he announced, giving local editors the power to reflect everybody regardless of age,” he said.

Lord Hall made the announcements at the annual Gillard Awards – a celebration of local radio – this year held in Coventry. It also marked the 50th anniversary of BBC local radio, after the first one launched in Leicester on November 8th 1967. The DG received a standing ovation after his speech (main photo), with local radio staff in favour of the announcements just made. Evening host Trish Adudu thanked Lord Hall and welcomed his plan saying it’s a great birthday present.

David Lloyd wrote an open letter to Tony Hall. He says: “A radio station cannot target everyone. Radio One (sic) would be less successful were it targeted at everyone, and so would Radio Two (sic). It does not work. You will create a radio network which is expensively-producing valuable output, consumed by ever fewer people. What’s Monday’s breakfast show agenda?”

He continues: “You suggest moving from a 50+ target. The BBC appears to believe it is appropriate to require a Radio 1 to target young – but not for any one of your services necessarily to trouble with those of us over fifty – radio’s most avid consumers. Not only a puzzling decision, but irresponsible. Commercial radio cannot target 50+ given it is simply not economically viable. You have just announced that BBC radio should no longer charge itself with the interests of those over fifty. Can that be right?”

Meanwhile, John Myers calls Lord Hall’s strategy of playing to the gallery “Risky at best, a disaster at worst.” Talking about his address to the staff of BBC local radio, he said: “The staff loved it and rightly so, (at last positive news about local radio) but aiming the output at everyone is the worst bloody idea the BBC has come up with for decades and that’s saying something. Tony Hall has gone mad!”

John went on to say: “Axing the network evening show may offer a headline but this is not the issue, anyone with a radio brain knows that daytime is where things are won and lost. This is a sideshow.

“Change is good and Tony was positive and means well so I’m happy to be wrong. That said, if these ideas have any chance of working the division has to remove itself from News HQ to a place where it can be embraced, loved and cherished for what they do. Bob Shennan, perhaps? By the way, I assume that if we’re going to all this trouble, we’d want to tell lapsed or non-listeners via marketing (that requires £250K a station for 3 years at least) otherwise what’s the point? There, in a nutshell, brings us back to cost savings unless Tony has more cash under his money tree.

“I love local radio and it’s wonderful to see the top floor focusing on it for once but sometimes you wonder if this is just another week of W1A management bollocks!”

Watch the majority of the speech via a reply of RadioTodayLive’s coverage on Facebook Live below:

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  1. Radio Geordie says

    These two guys are commercial radio heads and wold say that wouldn’t they?

    As for “commercial radio can’t target over 50+”, why not? There were 3 Saga FM stations and Primetime Radio on DAB which did just that and got some very attractive figures before corporate greed too over and were sold down the river to Mr Myers’ GMG who changed the name to Smooth and watered down the format.

    The whole point of Mr Hall’s speech can be summed up as follows:
    “If commercial radio don’t want to provide a local radio service, based in the area it claims to represent, then we will”.

  2. David Green says

    I for one am pleased the BBC LR is going to start changing. ILR is boring and disappearing in the local sense. Maybe a bit of competition with the BBC will bring LR back local again

  3. Joe Smith says

    The problem with BBC local radio at the moment is it appears to be targeted at the over 100s.

  4. Dan Dean says

    I think all three of you are missing the point. This “speech” was simply bollocks….and was simply delivered to rally the troops.
    BBC local radio is a product of the 60’s and 70’s and sounds dreadful today. It is dying on its ass because it is as relevant to today’s audience as British Home Stores was to today’s shopper and we know what happened to them. Then we have M&S who cant understand why they do not attract a young vibrant market….when it is obvious as soon as you walk into their dated stores with staff in a time warp…it is old fashion, boring and not cool or in touch with it’s market at all….
    BBC local radio is the same. Does it mean that this is the end of the breakfast show coming from some obscure village where they are opening a new level crossing…in the presence of the village idiot and Mrs WI in her tweed skirt and”hat with a pin” telling us what a difference this will make to village life…and how she was up late baking the cake she has baked for to the crew . It is the kind of thing that makes BBC local dated and boring…along with the fishing report …but i suppose ..Mr Hall thinks if that kind of radio is intersperse it with Rita Ora and Pitbull rather than Elaine Paige and Neil Diamond it will appeal to the under 50’s…. truth is they will find themselves appealing to even less people than they do at present…old saying!!..if you try and appeal to everyone you will end up appealing to nobody body !!!…and as for the presenters…who constantly talk about our county….they all sound so condescending and dated…Partridge is alive and kicking whenever i tune in..and out

    1. Joe Smith says

      I think you should read more what people say and talk a bit less. Then you might not miss the point.

    2. Wally Sawyer says

      “speech” was simply bollocks….”………….a bit like your post Mr Dean!

  5. Len Groat says

    David Lloyd shot holes through (Lord) Tony Hall’s propaganda speech, in that (speaking for the BBC) he:

    “appears to believe it is appropriate to require Radio 1 to target the young – but not for any one of your services necessarily to trouble with those of us over 50 – radio’s most avid consumers. Not only a puzzling decision, but irresponsible ”

    Of course it was received favourably – another generation of licence-fee funded, ‘Jobs for Life’ BBC loveys, lapped it up…

    1. Nick says

      This is the David Lloyd that killed off much of commercial radio in the west midlands by merging stations into free radio and selling it all off to bauer.
      I stop listening to his opinions years ago as he just destroys commercial radio wherever he goes in the UK.

  6. thomas prag says

    It is perfectly logical to let BBC locals target their different local audiences as they see fit. Will the younger audience listen to the breakfast show? I doubt it, but it’s not hard to imagine a cult evening show that gathers an audience while Sunday morning goes for the oldies . I’m very out of date but we did something like that at a wee commercial station (MFR) many years ago. Old fashioned? maybe but I dont really see why it shouldn’t work for a BBC local who are there to cater for their community in all its varied guises. Sunday mornings on MFR pulled the highest reach in the UK aimed at the maturer market. Friday evenings was a hit with the younger demographic as they swapped ‘lovelines’ on air. David and John are steeped in maximising target markets as efficiently as they can to deliver an audience to advertisers. They have both done it creatively and successfully many times and I admire them for it. But perhaps they are trying to commentate on a game that is played by different rules?

  7. Wally Sawyer says

    I do feel sorry for commercial radio, if only they concentrated on producing the best of programing instead of very bland output and stop moaning about the beeb, they might persuade folk to listen! Because frankly if you want local radio then in most areas there is only the BBC. Now here is a challenge for Messrs Lloyd and Myers, instead of running down the BBC why don’t you get your stations to compete, on a local as well as a national level? You never know it might be successful?

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